A Night at the Park: What the Press Box is Like at a Minor League Baseball Game

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The South Sound Suzuki Strings are killing it – playing the National Anthem before the Tacoma Rainiers game against the El Paso Chihuahuas. There are little flags being flown nearby as the little kids plug, drag, and pull those bows over all those violins. They finish to rousing applause. The stands are raucous with baseball fans – men holding beers, women with Rainier ball caps on, little kids with gloves too big and smiles wide. A reindeer is dancing along the third base line. The game is about to begin as the crowd rises euphoric. The press box is dead quiet.

I’m in it – the press box. The guy to my right is eating Kidd Valley burgers out of a bag. The guys behind me are eating some sort of french fry mess. The guy on my left is sucking down a Diet Coke. “I just need one more and I’m all set,” he says to me.

It is not a glamorous place – the press box. The radio team is in the room next door. The room next door to that is the TV room. This room is small and cramped with a team of men eager to write what they see of the game. They’ve all watched a lot of baseball. “I attend every game,” says the guy to my right. “It’s a summer job. It’s been great.”

Quiet, the press box is. There is a college football game playing on the TV affixed to the wall. Wyoming is winning. There are some old posters affixed to the walls – the Tacoma Yankees (1978), the Tacoma Cubs (1967), the fierce Tacoma Tigers of 1946. There’s a fridge in the room. It holds a lot of soda.

The game started. There’s guys with binoculars up here. There are score sheets printed out. Luis Urias is up. He’s from Magdalena de Kino, Sonora, Mexico. He’s 5’9” and 185 pounds. Urias strikes out.

The guy finished his burger. He tweets something and then something else. He has several tabs open on his computer. He scrolls through ESPN, Tacoma New Tribune, Twitter, back to ESPN, Twitter, back to ESPN. Down below in the stands there is some egregiously bad Billy Joel singing going on and everyone’s concentration is ruined up in the press box because of it. There’s some chawing, some belly aching. The game continues and, with that, silence in the press box.

They’re using sheets, the men in the room, to record the game. Every action is denoted with pencil. 4-3 out. 6-3 out. K. There are guys hunched over laptops, yes, but print outs, too. I’m not sure where the pencil sharpener is in this room. My pencil dulls.

To note: the Tacoma Rainiers are 0-60 this season when they’re behind after 8 innings. There’s a packet of information at my station that includes information like that. They’re 39-24 when they hit a home run in a game. They’re 15-10 in day games and 47-46 at night games. When the Rainiers score first they’re 41-23 and they’re 50-6 when leading after six innings. Tomorrow, at the stadium, is designated “Smile Sunday.”

It’s not the 6th yet, it’s the bottom of the 2nd and Cameron Rupp is up at the plate. He’s been here since July 16th after being released by Minnesota. He’s batting .228. He walks. It’s first and third and only one out. The Rainiers soon score and the press is told that what brought the player in was an infield single, not an error. The game churns on.

The crowd roars. Zach Vincej smashes a double to deep center. The press scribble on their score cards. Silence in the press box. The game churns on.

Neil Diamond is being played. It’s the loudest the crowd has been thus far.

I know the wireless password because it’s up on the wall. I will not divulge it. I will give you a hint: It contains both numbers and letters.

The press box cares very little for the 4th inning conga line happening.

The Chihuahuas get on the board but the press men do not seem to care. The game churns on. The guy to my left finishes his Diet Coke. Night has fallen. The stadium lights glow. There are scribbles on paper. There is silence.

El Paso gets three more runs in the 7th and take the lead. The Rainiers tie it in the bottom of the 7th. In between, people stand and sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.’ The press men do neither of these things. There is no aspect of the game they are not recording. The man drinking Coke denotes on his paper and online every pitch, every hit, every pitching change. The game is stats. The game is math. The game is a recorded history. These men are recording history. Will anyone care, days, weeks, months, years hence, that Tyler Higgins pitched 1.1 innings of no-hit ball and struck out three? Will anyone care that Cameron Perkins stole 3rd base for his 7th stolen base of the season this game? Will someone take note that the attendance this night is officially 6,194? The South Sound Suzuki Strings players – do they count in that official total?

These men are recording history – the Kidd Valley burger eater, the older man with the binoculars, the man with the crew cut relaying information to those that are eager to have it. This pitcher is taking the place of that pitcher. This pitcher threw this many innings. That batter was hit by a pitch and is awarded first base.

These men – the Rainiers rally in the bottom of the 8th with three runs and soon win the game because of it – are scribbling on their sheets and typing on their computers – as part of a grand tradition. Baseball is important. Information is important. Stats tell stories. One could look at a box score and know more than who won. One could look at a box score and feel the ebb and flow of a game. One could nearly see what transpired on the field. One could nearly feel what the fans, all 6,194 of them felt as the game swung into late evening. That’s just the box score. These men tell stories beyond the stories. And here is another one to add.

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